10 years of championing service excellence

23 Nov 2017

The Institute of Service Excellence (ISE) at Singapore Management University celebrated its 10th anniversary with an industry dinner at the S.E.A Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa on 9 November 2017.

ISE was jointly founded in 2007 by Singapore Management University and the then Workforce Development Agency (now Workforce Singapore) with the mission to raise service levels and build a culture of service excellence in Singapore through applied research and thought leadership, industry engagement, as well as benchmarking and comparative analysis.

The dinner was attended by more than 150 guests comprising leaders, partners and stakeholders from service sector companies, government agencies, industry associations, academia and undergraduates present. They were joined by more than 100,000 marine animals of over 1,000 species at one of the world’s largest aquariums.

SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong and ISE Executive Director Neeta Lachmandas interacting with Mr Renato De Oliveira from The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore (top) and Ms Wilcy Wong from DFS Venture Singapore (bottom).

In her Welcome Address, SMU Provost Professor Lily Kong said that in the last decade, the key issues and opportunities of the service landscape have morphed in the face of technological disruption, tighter labour conditions, and changing customer needs and behaviour. Large corporations and small to medium enterprises alike are finding new ways to navigate the challenges. Against this backdrop, the Institute of Service Excellence has been constantly evolving and enhancing its offerings to raise service levels in Singapore.

“As an academic partner to the industry, SMU will continue to support the development of relevant and insightful research, case studies, and professional development programmes to help the industry address current challenges and enhance the competitive advantage of service sector companies. We look forward to building on the foundation of partnership with everyone present here today for the benefit of the Singapore service sector,” said Prof Kong.

Prof Kong also announced that ISE, in collaboration with SMU Academy, will be launching the SMU Advanced Certificate in Service Excellence and Innovation. The Advanced Certificate will benefit from the unique SMU instructional approach, featuring a combination of faculty and practitioner teaching.

Ms Neeta Lachmandas, Executive Director of ISE said in her Opening Remarks, “As we gather here today to celebrate the progress our service sector has made, I’m mindful that the journey has not been an easy one. Over the last 10 years, we have seen many structural changes but we have also been encouraged by the spirit of innovation and many exciting developments in the sector. It is imperative that the Institute continues to work in tandem with the industry and academia to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing the service sector, and to advance peer-to-peer learning through conversations, case studies and the sharing of best practices.”

From left to right: Aymeric Seah (SMU), Anabel Ong (SMU), Kimberlee Lim (SMU), Cheong Nian Kai (NTU), Sebastian Lee Yew Jie (SMU), Professor Gerry George, Dean of SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

One highlight of the dinner was the announcement of the winners of the inaugural Undergraduate Essay Competition, one of several initiatives launched by ISE to commemorate its 10th anniversary.

The essay competition was launched on 1 June 2017 for matriculated students from all Singapore-based universities. Essay topics covered the role of technology, talent, and service culture. Over 40 submissions from National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore Institute of Management (SIM), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) were received and judged by a panel comprising faculty members of SMU and the management team of ISE.

Sebastian Lee Yew Jie from SMU beat the field with his essay “Disruptive technologies: Shaking up the status quo in Singapore” and walked away with $3000. His essay discusses the role of disruptive technologies and its influence on the services sector. Sebastian argues that disruptive technologies could trigger impacts such as business process changes, consumer’s preference changes, and regulation changes. Yet, with change comes opportunity. Disruptive technologies could also bring new learning opportunities through big data, opportunities to expand service offerings, and opportunities to break out of current manpower constraints.

Sharing his thoughts on the competition, Sebastian said “I have certainly gained a better understanding of the services sector in Singapore, and I believe that the same holds true for all participants of this competition. Service excellence is a powerful value proposition to many customers. There is certainly a strong business case to be built if you know that good service is what keeps customers happy, loyal and coming back for more."

Aymeric Seah and Anabel Ong, both also from SMU, took home the second prize and $2000 with their essay “Laying the Foundation for Service-centric Businesses in Singapore”. There was a tie for the third prize, with Cheong Nian Kai (NTU) and Kimberlee Lim (SMU) winning $1000 each for their essays “The Cyborg Service of the 21st Century” and “Tech is the future and the future is now” respectively.

Another highlight of the evening was the recognition of the top performers in the Customer Satisfaction Index of Singapore (CSISG) from seven sectors for their consistent and proven track record of outstanding levels of customer satisfaction. Organised for the first time, winners of the CSISG Awards were determined by comparing the average CSISG score for each measured company within each sector from 2007 to 2016. Each measured company must have topped their respective sector for at least two consecutive times, have a minimum of five years of measurement on the CSISG, and be currently measured on the Index.

The following companies received the inaugural CSISG Awards from Professor Lily Kong:

·        Singtel Mobile (Info-Communications Sector)

·        DFS Venture Singapore (Retail Sector)

·        Changi Airport Group (Transport Sector)

·        The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore (Tourism Sector)

·        Starbucks Coffee Singapore (Food & Beverage Sector)

·        Raffles Hospital (Healthcare Sector)

·        DBS Bank (Finance & Insurance Sector)

Said Ms Wilcy Wong, Managing Director, Singapore and Indonesia, DFS Venture Singapore Pte Ltd, “Delivering customer satisfaction is key to the DFS culture. We practise authentic and personal customer engagement within our T Galleria and airport stores, with a focus on understanding our customers’ preferences and shopping habits and providing them with a uniquely personal experience to surprise and delight them. I’m extremely proud of our teams, whose dedication to service excellence has resulted in DFS being awarded this recognition for eight consecutive years. We are deeply honoured with this strong testament!”

Mr Jeremy Soo, Managing Director & Head of Consumer Banking Group (Singapore), DBS Bank said, “We are delighted and especially heartened to be recognised as the top-scoring bank in the inaugural CSISG awards, reflecting the high level of customer trust and satisfaction in us. Over the years, we have invested heavily in driving a full cultural transformation programme anchored heavily on customer experience and service, and we are committed to placing our customers at the heart of what we do every single day.”

He added, “And as a bank serving close to five million customers in Singapore, we are upping the ante on not just the breadth of our digital offerings, but also on providing a holistic customer experience across our platforms. We do this by placing ourselves in our customers’ shoes, focusing on their needs and ensuring we know what the real ‘customer job to be done’ is. We remain committed to providing solutions and services to meet customers’ financial needs at every stage of their lives.”

A third highlight of the evening was the launch of ISE’s inaugural magazine titled Excellence Explored. The magazine is a compilation of stories that profile small local creative businesses across a variety of industry sectors including F&B, Retail and Hospitality. The magazine focuses on the backstory and thinking behind how these business owners have developed their unique value propositions and overcome challenges to gain a foothold in the Singapore service landscape. 

The last decade had indeed been an exhilarating journey for ISE, and the next decade holds much promise for ISE as it continues to work with its partners to improve service strategies to ensure Singapore remains competitive in the service landscape.

Here’s to another decade of service excellence! Cheers!

Featured photo: (from left to right) Ms Choy Sauw Kook, SPRING Singapore; Ms Neeta Lachmandas Executive Director of ISE; Mr Robert Yap, Co-Chairman, ISE Board of Advisors; Mr Jeremy Soo,DBS; Dr Prem Kumar Nair, Raffles Hospital;  Mr Yeo Kia Thye, Changi Airport Group; Professor Gerry George, Dean of SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business; Mr Yuen Kuan Moon, Singtel; Mr Renato De Oliveira, Ritz Carlton; Ms Wilcy Wong, DFS; Professor Lily Kong, SMU Provost; Mr Liak Teng Lit, ISE Board Member; Ms Selah Speich, Starbucks; Professor Tan Chin Tiong, Co-Chairman, ISE Board of Advisors; Mr Patrick Kwok, Starbucks.

Last updated on 23 Nov 2017.